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Elizabeth Warren ‘appalled’ by actions of GOP staffers

At least two Republican staffers, including a member of Scott Brown’s US Senate office, apparently mocked Elizabeth Warren’s claims to Native American ancestry by making tomahawk chops and war whoops outside one of Brown’s campaign events in Dorchester, according to a video filmed by the state Democratic Party.

In the video, filmed by a Democratic tracker on Saturday outside a Brown event at the Eire Pub, the staffers can be heard whooping and seen making the tomahawk motions amid a crowd of boisterous supporters of both candidates. The state Democratic Party identified the staffers as Brad Garnett, who works for the Massachusetts Republican Party, and Jack Richard, a constituent services lawyer in Brown’s US Senate office.

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Also in the video, though not apparently making the war whoops and hand chops, are Jenn Franks, a special assistant to Brown, Greg Casey, Brown’s deputy chief of staff, and Jerry McDermott, a former Boston City Councilor who serves as Brown’s state director, according to the Democratic Party.

On Tuesday, Brown said he had not seen the video but “if you’re saying that, certainly that’s not something I condone. It’s certainly something that, if I’m aware of it, I will tell that [staff] member never to do that again.”

Still, he struck a defiant tone when asked if he would apologize for his staffer’s behavior.

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“The apologies that need to be made and the offensiveness here is the fact that Professor Warren took advantage of a claim, to be somebody – a Native American -- and using that for an advantage, a tactical advantage,” Brown said.

Warren said Tuesday she was “appalled” by the video.

“If this had happened on my staff, there would be consequences... serious consequences,” she said.

The state Democratic party said Brown bears responsibility for his staff’s conduct.

“Scott Brown and his staff are launching outrageous and offensive personal attacks to distract from the issues that matter,” said Matt House, Massachusetts Democratic Party spokesman. “The behavior of his staff is completely inappropriate, but the tone of the campaign is set by the candidate.”

The video points to the political peril Brown faces as he steps up his attacks of Warren’s claims to Native American ancestry. War whoops and tomahawk chops – once prevalent among fans of Indian-named sports teams – have become a flashpoint in the sports world because many consider them offensive to Native Americans.

Brown, a Republican, has attacked Warren, a Democrat, over her purported ancestry in their first debate and in a tough new commercial he released Monday. Brown has argued Warren is not in fact Indian –“as you can see, she’s not,” he said during the debate - and has suggested she claimed minority status to advance her career. Warren, who has no documentation of her roots, has argued she did not benefit from her ethnic background, and has pointed to family stories to substantiate her heritage.

Michael Levenson can be reached at mlevenson@globe.com.
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